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Germany joins AstraZeneca in rejecting 'completely incorrect' reports on Covid vaccine efficacy in elderly

Two German newspaper reports cast doubt on the effectiveness of the Oxford vaccine among older age groups.

The Oxford/Astrazeneca coronavirus vaccine is prepared at a coronavirus vaccination clinic at a hospital in Sunderland.
The Oxford/Astrazeneca coronavirus vaccine is prepared at a coronavirus vaccination clinic at a hospital in Sunderland.
Image: PA Images

Updated Jan 26th 2021, 11:33 AM

GERMANY’S HEALTH MINISTRY has joined AstraZeneca in rubbishing reports quoting unnamed government sources that claimed the British-Swedish company’s Covid-19 vaccine showed little efficacy for people above 65.

The German daily economic newspaper Handelsblatt had reported yesterday that Berlin had estimated the efficacy of the jab among over-65s was just 8%, citing unnamed sources.

Separately, Bild quoted anonymous sources saying that that Berlin did not expect the vaccine – developed with Oxford University and set to get the green light from the EU this week – would receive a licence for use in the elderly. It quoted an efficacy rate of “less than 10%”.

But Germany’s health ministry said it “appears that two things have been mixed up in the reports.”

“Around 8% of the volunteers in AstraZeneca’s efficacy studies were around 56 and 69 years old and 3-4% are above 70 years old,” said the ministry.

“However, this does not mean that it is effective only in 8% of older people,” it added.

But the health ministry added that the EU regulator, the European Medicines Agency, will evaluate the effectiveness of the vaccine in the older age group.

It has been known since the autumn that fewer older people were involved in AstraZeneca’s first studies than in other manufacturers’.

‘Completely incorrect’

The company had also rejected the German media reports as erroneous.

“Reports that the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine efficacy is as low as 8% in adults over 65 years are completely incorrect,” the firm said in a statement late last night.

“In November, we published data in The Lancet demonstrating that older adults showed strong immune responses to the vaccine, with 100% of older adults generating spike-specific antibodies after the second dose,” it added.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn told public broadcaster ZDF that Berlin would wait to see the complete data from studies of the AstraZeneca vaccine before drawing any conclusions.

On that basis, decisions could be taken next week about “which age groups will be inoculated first with this vaccine”.

The European Union issued an angry warning to AstraZeneca yesterday over its unexpected delay in delivering millions of doses of its Covid-19 vaccine to the bloc.

Last Friday, the pharma giant said it would not meet its contractual delivery commitments to the European Union because of unexplained “reduced yields” in its European supply chain.

The European Union has currently authorised two vaccines for widespread distribution, manufactured by BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna.

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It was set to add the AstraZeneca vaccine to that list this week, on the understanding that it would be already on hand and available for immediate rollout.

© AFP 2021

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